Friday, December 11, 2015



The Polymerase Chain Reaction

One of the most significant discoveries speeding the rise of molecular genetics was the discovery of the polymerase chain reaction by Kary Mullis.  The following two paragraphs were notes I made 23 years ago based on an 1993 article by Jim Dwyer in Parade, “The quirky genius who is changing our world”, October 10, pages 8 & 10. They are from page 10.

“Mullis speaks with some bitterness about the years that followed his discovery.  He was turned down flat by prestigious journals when he tried to publish his findings.  He remembers the reception to his idea by colleagues at Cetus as ice cold.  Then, he maintains, as PCR was taking off, they sought to attach themselves to its development.”

“ ‘There’s two kinds of stuff in science,’ he says, ‘the thinking and the doing.  I’m not good at accomplishing things.’ ”

Is there a conspiracy against creativity?  Not likely
I’ve commented elsewhere that James Garfield, former editor of Current Contents, frequently found citation classics (research papers highly cited) had many rejections before they were accepted for publication.  My conclusion is that it is difficult to recognize the value of new views.  An equally valid comment might be that some researchers need criticism from reviewers to enable them to produce an acceptable manuscript.  It is difficult to recognize our own mistakes without help from others.

Joseph G. Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan    December 11, 2015

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